Clément Beaune in “K”: French know-how on the Greek railways

By | May 9, 2023

Speaking to “K”, Clement Bonn, who was also Minister for European Affairs for a significant period of time, stressed that the EU. she has accomplished so much more than we give her credit for. [A.P. Photo/Virginia Mayo]

Yesterday, a know-how contribution agreement was signed with France between Deputy Minister of Transport Clément Bon and its counterpart Jorge Gerapetritiswith the aim of helping the existing investigation into the Tempe accident, but also in the long term to redesign the parameters of the rail network. Talking to “K” Mr. Bohn, who was also Minister for European Affairs for a significant period of time, on the occasion of today’s Europe Day, underlined that the EU itself has achieved much more than we give it credit for. Also, although he recognizes the difficulty of the undertaking, he is in favor of starting the institutional debate that could lead to a substitution of the unanimity rule at the EU level. in matters of foreign policy and taxation, by an increased majority procedure.

– You were in Athens to sign a cooperation agreement with the Ministry of Transport, so that Greece can take advantage of French knowledge in the critical sector of railways. What does this deal include?

– It is a framework agreement between Greece and France. After the accident in Tempi, I offered to the Greek minister to improve our cooperation. And we decided to work together in concrete and tangible directions. We will contact the network operators to review the networks and the management of railway safety. We can also help and support the investigation carried out by the Greek government, through our own investigation office. In the medium and long term, we can work on training in network management, which is something in which the Minister of Transport has also taken an interest. I brought with me a representative of the French railways (SNCF) and the executive director of OSE also participated in the meeting and they started a very good discussion on the progress of the control of the railway network. It was a message of solidarity and tangible cooperation, which complements the cooperation we have in other very important areas, such as defense, aviation, etc.

– Now we are in front of a very beautiful boat in the marina of Flisvos…

– We are in Flísvos, to meet the people of a project that I have supported since I was Minister of European Affairs. During the French presidency we supported as a government together with other European projects related to the environment and the sea. It’s a boat, it’s called ‘El Arco’ and it has won a few regattas skippered by Francis Zouillon. He and the crew of ‘The Arch’ want to sail from port to port in the EU. and promote ideas for environmental protection.

France is open to discussing a replacement in the EU. of the unanimity rule, with a reinforced majority in foreign policy votes.

– In the last 14-15 months that the war in Ukraine has been going on, there has been a feeling that the EU. it falls short as a global player compared to the US or China, for example. How can the EU strengthen its role?

– I believe that the EU as a club does more than what we see. When we look back at the beginning of this horrible war, on the first, second day there was a European Summit with decisions, with sanctions being decided, with very tough measures blocking Russian planes from European airspace and some means that were banned because they were making propaganda for Russia. For the first time in history we had financial measures, weapons sent to Ukraine by member states, direct support from the EU budget. Of course, the EU is a business that continues to grow, and May 9 is an opportunity to celebrate. We have to keep growing, but I think we should be proud of everything the EU is doing in dealing with these crises. Sometimes it doesn’t do it as well or not as well or not fast enough, as was the case with the Greek crisis and after the immigration crisis. Of course, in other cases like COVID-19 we did quite well, with the vaccination campaign, the recovery plan, where Greece and France came together, the response to the war. Although the war continues, the EU is the main financial provider in the Ukrainian budget. Sometimes we look at what is happening outside, in the US, China and other places, and we forget what the EU is doing. So today is an opportunity to recognize what the EU has achieved. in the crisis Each country has its reasons. Greece entered the EU in 1981, when a few years before it had managed to get out of a dictatorship. She was a symbol of democratization and freedom. And now Ukraine wants to join the club for similar reasons.

– So, are you optimistic in general?

– Yes, because if you look at what followed, when about 70 years ago some individual and something crazy, in a positive sense, said: “Let’s work together, let’s forget the war, let’s stop being enemies, let’s make a community.” .” They started then with six countries, now we are 27 and we have not only survived all these crises, but we have taken the project further. Common currency, gradual common defense taking slow steps, common green policies, common stance against COVID- 19 etc. When we look at the last seven decades, I see many successes, we are not perfect, but that is why the EU is worth fighting for.

– This debate has also started on the prevalence of the majority principle in foreign policy and other matters, instead of unanimity. What do you think should be done?

– Last year, during the French presidency, in Strasbourg, if I remember correctly, President Macron said that we are open to a discussion on all the remaining areas of unanimous voting. It’s not just foreign policy, it’s also fiscal policy that started this whole debate. We understand that it is a sensitive issue, even for France. But I think that if we want to make the EU stronger, then we have to reopen the institutional dimension. It was released on May 9 of last year. Maybe you haven’t progressed enough. But we are on this course to reform our institutions.

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